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Market Uptake of Sustainable and Competitive Carbons for Energy Storage

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - CareSTOR (Market Uptake of Sustainable and Competitive Carbons for Energy Storage)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2020-12-31

Clean Air Policies promoted by governments worldwide aim at supporting emergent technologies enabling society to overcome the threat caused by escalating levels of air pollution and greenhouse effect. It is commonly agreed that the solution to such a major environmental problem relies heavily on a widespread deployment of Renewable Energy Sources and Electric Vehicles. While it has been a long time coming, wide penetration of those technologies has not materialized quite yet. One major reason for it being the lack of cost-effective Energy Storage Systems (ESS) to deal with the problem of energy "logistics".

Current State-of-Art of ESS based on chemical energy storage (e.g. Li-ion batteries) faces the major drawback of a limited service life, leading in most cases to negative cost-benefit scenarios. Interestingly, an emergent device called Supercapacitor (aka Ultracapacitor) based on electrostatic energy storage in microporous materials (mostly Activated Carbon) has been gaining momentum over the last decade. Supercapacitors show a set of strengths almost ideally complementary to batteries . The resulting Hybrid Energy Storage Systems (batteries + supercapacitors banks) have repeatedly demonstrated an extended service life vs battery banks alone, becoming the most promising alternative for cost-efficient Energy Storage at large scale in the near future. It is generally accepted that the current Supercapacitor price is already at tantalizing distance of making large-scale Energy Storage affordable. However, further R&D effort is still required to cut down the costs since the current approach seems to have hit a deadend.

CareSTOR tackles the problem of Supercapacitor cost reduction through the development of a new generation of Activated Carbons (aka Activated Hydro-Chars, AHC), pioneering the scale-up of a groundbreaking production strategy. The innovative Carbons in CareSTOR provide about 50% increase in gravimetric Energy Storage per gram of materal with respect to the most widely used commercial counterparts. This breakthrough leads to a direct reduction cost related to the lower amount of Carbon used per Farad stored in a device, plus an indirect reduction via the shrinkage of the dimensions of the cell, enabling a relevant econmization in electrolyte and other materials such as collectors, separators, packaging.

The overall objectives include:

1. Resource-efficient production of AHC leading to elaboration of Standard Operation Procedure (SOP), datasheet of product and Pre-industrial Plant for AHC production reaching output capacity of 10-100Ton per year

2. Industrial validation of cost-competitive production of AHC increasing electric storage capacity by 50% vs current competitors.

3. Design and manufacture of Supercapacitors cells (and modules) implementing CareSTOR technology (CareCAP) including 2 sizes of o-CareCAP (350 and 3,000 F in organic electrolytec) and one size of a-CareCAP (450 F in aqueous electrolyte), plus proof-of-concept for High-voltate version i-CareCAP (ionic liquid electrolyte)

4. Cutting down technology cost by 40% and 30% for CareCAP in its organic and aqueous versions with validation stages including: production of prototypes, DEMOs or test-bench using realistic operation conditions relevant to 4 different applications.

5. Automated manufacturing of o-CareCAP organic and its homologation with 4 pre-commercial agreements for commercialization with Stakeholders (end-users) by the end of the project

6. Start mass production and exploitation of innovative AHCs exploring the option of a Joint Venture
The work performed includes:

A. Successful replication of 2 different varieties of AHC at Pilot Scale (500 g batch)

B. Studies on the resource-efficient production of AHC at a relevant scale (optimisation of 7 key production variables) with elaboration of interim Standard Operation Protocol

C. Extensive R&D of electrode manufacturing to AHC in 2 different electrolytes (organic and aqueous). Completing 5 iterative cycles on AHC (11 samples) fine-tuning for organic and 2 addtional for aqueous (4 samples).

D. Testing AHC-based electrodes against stringent industrial standards relevant to energy storage

E. Implementing new conditioning strategies to improve AHC SPECs in accordance with standards provided by Supercapacitor manufacturers

F. Preliminary stages on the commissioning of Pre-industrial production line for AHC entering the scale 10-100 Tons/year, including evaluation, design and acquisition of key equipment

G. Design, manufacturing and interim technical datasheet of a-CareCAP prototypes (pouch cell typology)
So far, CareSTOR has demonstrated at a relevant scale the potential of the innovative AHCs to produce a real breakthrough in Supercapacitor technology, confirming all the expectations created at the beginning of the project. Additionally, Envirohemp has demonstrated the use of a locally available feedstock of agricultural origin, while devoting extensive efforts to develop a resource-efficient activation strategy. As a result, it has been demonstrated that a direct reduction of 58% in the cost associated to consumables used in the activation is possible. The new low-cost product line preserves all relevant qualities of the material originally developed in the lab.

During the second period CareSTOR aims at covering the following milestones:

i. Production of o-CareCAP prototypes (hundreds of units)
ii. DEMOs of CareCAP prototypes under realistic working conditions relevant to at least 4 different applications (including when possible: Windmill, Photovoltaics, Regenerative Braking...)
iii. Pre-industrial production of AHC reaching the Ton scale
iv. Proof of concept of i-CareCAP
v. Automation and homologation of o-CareCAP, at least 2 different cell sizes
vi. Extensive communication and dissemination activity with major focus towards media diffussion and industrial events

As a result, Envirohemp will become the first relevant supplier of advanced Carbons for energy storage active out of Asia, while operating with a feedstock readily available in Europe (as opposite to mainstream Coconut shell).
Finally, a number of dissemination actions for key agents will be implemented to purposely create awareness of the most relevant achievements in terms of Energy storage cost and product features. The expected outcomes are listed here:

- Enabling Full-scale DEMOs of o-CareCAP technology as a follow-up to the project
- Inform scientific counselors and industrial clusters close to policy making and fund allocation in future R&D+i programmes
- Engage stakeholders and investors to speed-up growth and replication of success case demonstrated by CareSTOR
CareSTOR value chain. From biomass to advanced Capacitive Energy Storage.